Parents & Families
We recognize that the education abroad experience doesn't just impact the student participant. Parents and families are involved in various ways and we aim to provide relevant information to help you support your student on their international journey.
In an effort to support your student, you may be tempted to take on a great deal of responsibility of their study abroad process. It is important to remember that your student is an adult and should be responsible for facilitating their international experience. You should also be aware of Western's FERPA Policy and how it relates to information access regarding your student.
Perhaps one of the hardest things for parents and family members to do, is to step back and let your student take responsibility for the planning and preparing for an international education experience. However, this is truly one of the best ways you can set your student up for a success. Although we encourage students to include family members in on the process of researching program options and discussing plans and goals, please resist the temptation to do all the work for them or to allow your own ideas about what an "ideal" study abroad experience would be to influence their individual decision making process. Your student is about to embark on a major step forward in their journey toward independence, and therefore will need to know before they get on the plane that they have taken full responsibility for the decision making process of their program. Your confidence in them and their abilities will surely help to fuel them on their way!
For parents of students who had to return suddenly from abroad due to COVID-19, see this resource: How Parents Can Help Their Study Abroad Student During COVID-19.
- A comprehensive Institute of International Education Book on Study Abroad Advice for Parents is now available in Spanish, "Guía Para Padres Sobre Estudios en el Extranjero" download here: A Parent Guide to Study Abroad - Spanish.
- The New York Times: Advice for College Students Studying Abroad, and Their Parents
Frequently Asked Questions
Most study abroad programs include important services on-site in each country where we have programs. These offices are fully staffed with professionals who conduct orientation and work closely with our affiliated universities in that country, but their primary job is to prepare our students for the academic and cultural differences of their host country. We strongly encourage our students to contact their program provider or on-site office in their host country if they experience problems, either personally or related to their studies. The staff in these offices are familiar with the academic and social challenges of study abroad in that country. They are trained to help students solve problems and are always happy to lend guidance or a sympathetic ear. In addition to maintaining each on-site office, on-site staff abroad keep pagers or cell phones for student emergencies. In the event of an emergency outside of office hours, a student can call the emergency number to receive assistance from on-site staff.
Most parents use a combination of e-mail, telephone, and regular mail to contact students. Most program and affiliated universities assign e-mail addresses to students, but these are not available until after class registration. For this reason, we encourage our students to continue to use their WWU email as it will work in any country. If your student is living in a student apartment abroad, he or she will likely be responsible for setting up and paying for phone service, usually in cooperation with roommates. Many universities still do not provide individual phone lines in dorm rooms. As part of many on-site orientation programs, students will be provided with options for purchasing a phone, or calling card, or many can choose to use their existing US phone if their provider/device has international SIM card capabilities. Skype and WhatsApp are also a very affordable ways to connect with family and friends!
Understandably, safety is one of the concerns we discuss most often with parents. Our comprehensive, mandatory orientations address health and safety issues relevant to the country of study and on-site staff and program resident staff are careful to keep students aware of locations and situations that can present danger. In addition, the information we provide to students, both before departure and while abroad, contain extensive information about staying healthy and safe. While some parents and students focus their concerns about study abroad on the cataclysmic--acts of terrorism, violent crime, or natural disasters--the truth is that, just as in the United States, much of a student's safety abroad depends on his or her exercising mature and responsible behavior and on making good decisions. Traveling with companions rather than alone, especially late at night; using caution in interactions with strangers; staying away from dangerous areas or activities; not drinking to excess, and avoiding the use of illegal drugs; following the laws and knowing and respecting the customs of the country--these are the best ways your student can maximize their safety abroad, just as at home.
Although there may or may not be other WWU students studying with your student abroad, there will be other students on the same program from various universities across the US and some international students. Many programs offer group flights for most programs so students need not travel alone and our orientations are a great way to share excitement with other students.
Depending on the type of program your student has applied to, the housing and meal arrangements will vary. Housing options can include residence halls, apartments, homestays, and hotel accommodations. Similar to attending WWU, students who study abroad at international institutions will likely have access to an onsite dining facility. For student living in home-stays, usually breakfast and dinner are included within program fees. Similar to attending WWU, regardless of meal plan we recommend that students budget for additional meals while traveling independently or for when dining off campus
For WWU Global Learning Faculty-led Programs, students will be billed tuition and fees through their WWU student account. For Western Exchange programs, students will be billed tuition through their WWU student account, but will pay for their housing and meal plans through their host institution. For ISEP (International Student Exchange Program), students will pay all university fees (tuition, housing, & meal plan) through their WWU student account. For other study abroad program options, students will pay the provider organization directly for tuition and fees. They may also have payment plans and can allow for students to use their financial aid.
In some cases students may be able to use at least some of the same financial aid packages they receive at WWU for study abroad. In other cases, they cannot. Financial aid, in the form of grants, scholarships and loans may be applied to approved study abroad programs through Education Abroad. However, financial aid in the form of Tuition Waivers, Work Study, Western grants and the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) scholarship do not apply. Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) funds may be applied to Exchanges and some applicable programs. Please visit our Financial Aid and Scholarship pages for more information.